When my husband and I first started dating, we lived six hours apart. Technology served as a godsend that kept us connected: FaceTiming before going to sleep, texting little notes throughout the day, sending funny pug memes to one another. Those were the golden days, when my iPhone felt like a tool at my disposal versus a tiny machine running my entire life. Because nowadays? I find myself nonstop distracted by a little white screen—across the dinner table, on the couch “watching” a show together, first thing in the morning—and let’s be honest, it ain’t good for my relationship. And I want to make a change.
I’m not alone in this. A 2016 study says 70% of women view smartphones as negatively affecting their primary relationship. Over a third claim their partner responds to notifications in the middle of a conversation (yikes), and one out of four in the study said their partner will text during an interaction … all of which, unsurprisingly, leads to feelings of unhappiness with one’s relationship and life overall.
None of us, though, want to necessarily spend more time with our devices than our partners. So here are a few ways to keep yourself, and your love life, in the present moment instead of a nonstop digital world.
Remember Life Without a Phone?
Okay, maybe you don’t. But for many of us, we remember growing up in an age where information didn’t exist at our fingertips. Things like walking over to a friend’s house and ringing their doorbell, without knowing if they’d be home. Printing out Mapquest directions for a long drive or, better yet, getting a little lost across town. Standing in the checkout line and, you know, just looking around to observe. Going to happy hour with your partner and, ahem, not having a conversation about putting your phone away.
The point is, life once happened without any notifications. While it may be unrealistic to ever completely give up the smartphone, it’s valuable to take small detoxes: a weekend or a set period where you put technology to the side for the people you love most. And if you need a gut check regarding your smartphone habits, check out this little quiz. (Tip: If you freak out when you misplace your phone, run out of battery or have limited service, you miiiight wanna scale back.)
Trust me, it’s a little weird at first. Your hand will probably do the awkward phantom reach for your phone, or you may feel a tad bored. That’s okay. Let yourself be slightly anxious, because the relief comes next. Case in point: On a coffee date this past weekend, I realized how nice it was to simply be there IRL and enjoy it versus taking a cute pic for Instagram.
Distraction Is Easier Than Connection—and It’s Called “Phubbing”
Did you know the average American checks his or her phone once every six minutes? If you’re like, oh, but not me, I dare you to count, because the reality will likely shock you. Some days, for me, I’m embarrassed to admit it’s more like every 30 seconds.
Studies suggest it’s not necessarily the existence of cell phones that puts a strain on relationship—it’s that urge of needing to “check” them that hurts, because it pulls one’s attention away from a partner. Mandy Oaklander writes, “Real-life interactions are dulled when a person feels the urge to check their phone, and the distraction a phone affords one partner doesn’t make the other person feel good.”
There’s even a term for it: phubbing, which means being snubbed by your partner for the presence of a smartphone instead. And it’s not that a smartphone will necessarily cause you to divorce or break up, but it can easily put pressure on any existing tensions. Without intentional conversation and set boundaries about technology use in a relationship, phone use can easily result in a sense of growing apart.
Why? Because it’s easier to hide behind a screen than actually connect with your partner. Connection is hard work; it makes us vulnerable, and there’s a sense of not being in control, whereas a phone serves as instant gratification. Considering lots of people use their phones to connect in some fashion, it seems a little counterintuitive that disconnect occurs so frequently, but many couples note how quickly technology creates unexpected rifts on a daily basis. Additionally, elements like nuance, emotions, facial expressions, voice tone and body language are often lost in digital conversations, which can take another toll on your relationship.
For more relationship tips and to check out the full article, head to The Everygirl.